Rug·ged (adj) -- Showing facial signs of strength; presenting a severe test of ability, stamina, or resolution; strongly built or constituted.
For some of the entries on Sports Illustrated's recently-released list of "The NHL's Most Rugged Players," the definition holds. Like when it discusses the virtues of Rod Brind'Amour(notes), who wears 18 years of hockey nasty on his face:
The Stanley Cup playoffs are the most grueling marathon in sports. To win the coveted Cup, players must go all-out through two months of punishing play. Hurricanes captain Rod Brind'Amour is an 18-year NHL veteran bidding for his second Stanley Cup. He's a strong two-way center exceptional on face-offs and the penalty-kill. Most importantly, he plays through pain and, at 38, is one of the league's grand old warriors. Here are 11 more players, past and present, who personify the word "rugged."
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Yeah, about that ... first off, a hearty jeer to whoever thought it wise to mix generations on this list. First, because it's as annoying as when Versus runs a vignette on Tony Esposito between periods of a Chicago Blackhawks game. Second, because any comparison of ruggedness between players of the 1970s and today is rendered pointless because of the increased quality of equipment, accommodations and painkillers.
That understood, the SI list of "most rugged players":
Rod Brind'Amour; Bobby Clarke; Kris Draper(notes); Clark Gillies; Dustin Byfuglien(notes); Alex Ovechkin; Brooks Orpik(notes); Chris Pronger(notes); Denis Potvin; Scott Stevens; Dion Phaneuf(notes); Mike Komisarek(notes).
Alexander Ovechkin(notes) is a lot of things, but "rugged" might not be top of the list for a guy that sometimes exhibits an Arena Football-level of defensive attentiveness. Dion Phaneuf? Chris Pronger? Fantastic players, no doubt; rugged though?
Coming up, we amend the Sports Illustrated list with some selections of our own. On this off night for the Stanley Cup playoffs, please do add in the comments your own selections for the most "rugged" players in the NHL today.
Leahy and I agreed that "rugged" is a rather nebulous term that can be applied in a variety of ways. Scott Parker(notes), for example, looks like he just rolled in from Sturgis. So that's one kind of rugged.
Honestly, the label can be applied in a dozen different ways. So we narrowed it down to 10 players that, for whatever reason, seem to fit our conception of "rugged" better than many of the names on that SI list. In team order:
Tireless leader who can play physical hockey and is willing to fight back against aggressors. If not the personification of rugged, than the modern personification of a captain.
Rod Brind'Amour, Carolina Hurricanes
Even in a sometimes putrid season, SI got this one right: He looks and plays like a warrior. Chelios with better ice time and more responsibility.
"I'm not sorry about it ... I don't think I crossed the line. I did what needed to be done, and we move forward. I still, hopefully, am going to have a beer with him when the season is done . . . I hope he can accept it. And if he can't, that's not my issue."
Say it in the Clint Eastwood voice, and it's practically Harry Callahan.
A brawling pest who's an important leader. Remember how we questioned Phaneuf on this list? Here's why:
Brendan Morrow, Dallas Stars
Because of his injuries this regular season, it's easy to forget that this guy was the personification of a Conn Smythe candidate for three rounds last postseason. Rugged in the leading-by-any-means-necessary kind of way. Not in, like, the Scott Parker way. And he's also not the cheap-shot artist that Steve Ott(notes) is.
Kris Draper, Detroit Red Wings
When you picture Kris Draper in the supermarket, do you see him violently bumping up against the shelves until the item he's attempting to purchase falls into his cart? Because we do.
With Gary Roberts(notes) hanging up his spurs, one of the last true veteran warriors playing in the NHL. His former GM claimed his was signed for his "rugged play"; what more do you need? OK, how about doing this at, what, age 50?
A pain-in-the-rear, for sure. But one of those players in the NHL for whom "rugged" is affixed to "winger" in describing his occupation with the Senators. Jeremy Milks' explanation of his value is spot-on.
Maybe it's indicative of Komisarek's inconsistent season that Coburn, a rock on the Flyers' blue line, would make our list of rugged over the guy considered the best "defensive defenseman" in hockey. Maybe it's the Flyers' logo. Or the eye thing.
Brooks Orpik, Pittsburgh Penguins
SI nails this one too. From their entry:
The Penguins are known for offensive firepower, but Orpik is their brawn. The 6-2, 219-pound black-and-blueliner leads the playoffs with 60 hits after two rounds -- and ranked second with 309 during the regular season. "I don't think anyone likes to get hit," he told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "But there are some guys, you can get them off their game. Maybe they don't come through the neutral zone with the same speed. Or maybe they take their eye off the puck and turn it over looking for you instead of worrying about making a play."
So how do you define it? And what's your top 10? [H/T Caps Insider for the SI piece.]